The current security transformation around the Black Sea makes it increasingly compelling to discuss in order to understand the challenges in the region. To encourage insight on the factors that will define the future security of the Black Sea region, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in partnership with the U.S. Mission to NATO, hosted a panel discussion in Bucharest on April 30.
The event was opened with a keynote speech by Romania’s Secretary of State for Defense Valeriu Nicut who underlined Romania’s efforts to place the Black Sea region at the heart of NATO’s strategic interests. The diplomatic and military actions taken by Russia in Georgia and Ukraine have fueled a profound degradation of the security environment in the region, both for NATO members and partners. Beyond Georgia and Ukraine, Nicut also expressed his concern over the future stability of Moldova, and the role played by Moscow-backed separatists in Transnistria. Therefore, the secretary of state stressed the importance to develop defensive measures for NATO allies in the region, but also to strengthen the posture of NATO partners such as Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia.
The discussion continued with an intervention by Lee Litzenberger, deputy chief at the U.S. Mission to NATO, who highlighted the role of Romania as one of the region’s strongest NATO allies. Litzenberger also underlined that the 2014 NATO Wales Summit had effectively addressed the security concerns in the region. In this context, the U.S. will continue to work with Romania on ballistic missile defense and on maritime security in the Black Sea, and will support NATO efforts to strengthen the posture of regional partners such as Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova. Litzenberger stressed that these efforts are defensive, and not aimed at disrupting Russia’s interests. The deputy chief ended by saying that the U.S. and NATO will continue to commit to the securitization of the Black Sea region and to invest in reinforcement and reassurement measures.
Adrian Davidoiu, director general for strategic affairs at the ministry of foreign affairs of Romania, responded by pointing that Russia’s efforts to militarize the Crimean peninsula have been a game changer for Romania’s security. In this context it is very difficult, if not impossible, to return to ‘business-as-usual’ with Moscow. Therefore, Romania’s priority is to work within NATO to raise the Black Sea region’s capacity to react to a potential security threat. Davidoiu explained that Bucharest wants to increase its capacity to coordinate and consult with other allies, not only in the region, but across the Alliance, and presented some successful initiatives, for instance with Poland or Turkey.
Finally, Iulian Chifu, president of the Centre for Conflict Prevention and Early Warning called on NATO to discuss or revisit its rules of engagement, because Article 5 remains ambiguous about new security threats, such as hybrid warfare. In this light, it will be important for NATO to continue its efforts to support its members and partners in the Black Sea region, but also to rethink its future relations with Russia. Finally, Chifu also welcomed the fact that countries on NATO’s eastern flank will meet in a new high-level format next November in Bucharest to discuss the future security of the region.
After the speakers’ contribution a lively debate with the audience followed.